MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas and rival candidate Patrick Arnold will be pounding the pavement one more time today as voters head to the polls for the 2013 municipal election.
Gatsas and Arnold are among the estimated 50 candidates seeking to win or hang onto seats on the boards of aldermen and school board. Voters will also be deciding the winner of the race for welfare commissioner and whether to approve the nine charter revisions proposed by the Charter Commission.
The race between Gatsas and Arnold has proven combative and more competitive than anticipated, but it remains to be seen whether this will reverse a decades-long decline in voter participation in city elections.
City Clerk Matt Normand said he expected turnout to be higher than it was in 2011, when it hit a record low of 28 percent, but not higher than it was in 2009, when Gatsas first won election. Gatsas won commanding victories in both of the previous elections, getting 56 percent of the vote in 2009 and more than 70 percent in 2011.
The City Clerk's Office uses absentee ballot requests to come up with a rough estimate of turnout.
Normand said he hopes that turnout surpasses expectations. "I encourage everybody to come out and vote. The weather's supposed to be nice," he said, adding, "These municipal elections, this is where voters have a voice in choosing the candidate that represents them on those issues every day that they face, more so than in a federal race."
Arnold and Gatsas spent Monday making last-minute pitches to voters.
"We've done everything we have in past elections, and hopefully voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinion," Gatsas said. "I'd just ask them to go out and vote."
Arnold, the Ward 12 alderman, said, "We're certainly excited and enthusiastic. We've been speaking to voters just as we have been the past several months, about the challenges we face in public safety and in the Manchester School District."
Arnold's campaign on Monday filed a final preelection fundraising report that showed it took in another $45,000 since the primary, bringing its total for the year to more than $110,000, an amount that far exceeds that of Gatsas' past mayoral challengers. At the same time, Gatsas raised another $6,000, bringing his total to more than $213,000.
Arnold's contributions continued to come from a large number of individuals and public sector unions, as well as in-kind donations from members of his campaign staff. Gatsas received a smaller number of larger contributions from individuals and businesses.
In addition to the mayor's race, 50 candidates are running for the 24 ward-level alderman and school board seats and the four city-wide at-large positions. The race for welfare commissioner is between incumbent Paul Martineau and Diane Guimond, his former deputy.
Voters will also be asked whether to approve nine charter revisions, including ones that would increase the mayor's salary to $100,000 a year and eliminate the health benefits for aldermen and school board members, while raising their stipends to $9,000 and $7,000 respectively. The changes, which will be described on the ballot, can only be approved or rejected in their entirety.
Polls will be open between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. (See polling places, Page B5.) UnionLeader.com will post results as they become firstname.lastname@example.org